David Blecken
Oct 3, 2014

Mondelez's brand strategy VP on striking the right note in China

ASIA-PACIFIC – At Spikes Asia, Mondelez’s global VP of brand strategy and communications spoke to Campaign about the company’s new initiative in China and her role as a bridge between disciplines.

Baskin: Being overly nice doesn't do anyone any favours in marketing
Baskin: Being overly nice doesn't do anyone any favours in marketing

Mondelez recently took its ‘Wonderfilled’ initiative for Oreo to China—but in a notably different form than in the US. Baskin, who recently spent three months working in China for the campaign extension and the launch of Oreo Thins—played an important role in adapting the US brand’s approach to fit with the local market.

While the ‘Wonderfilled’ platform has seen success in North America by presenting Oreos as a snack that (for a moment at least) helps people to see the world in a new way, Baskin said she quickly learnt that such fanciful positioning would not work in China. Instead, Mondelez focused on the concepts of freedom and sharing. In addition, the Thins product is aimed at mothers, rather than millennials.

In tests, people responded positively to imagery of someone opening a window and handing out Oreos, Baskin said, attributing this to “a need for freedom” and relief from the pressures of daily life.

The change might seem small, but local insight goes a long way. Baskin said her biggest challenge to working in Asia is not being in the region enough of the time. She described her role as that of “a translator between creative agencies and the corporate side”, having spent 20 years working as a planner at Leo Burnett.

She said she was optimistic about the potential of marketing talent in much of Asia, but realistic that “not as many people have gone to business school or grown up with brands”. That means her role as a marketer is often combined with that of an educator.

Baskin’s approach focuses on ‘content’ rather than ‘advertising. “I’m hoping to create content with everything we do,” she said. “We don’t make something that we think people are going to want to consume on their own. Paid media is becoming a smaller and smaller part of our budget every day. I try to make very little advertising and a lot of content.”

Indeed, she said her company’s digital and mobile budget has risen to around 40 per cent, and she is aiming to increase it to a 60/40 per cent across all brands. “Asia was slightly behind the curve but has now more than caught up because mobile is so huge here,” she said.

She said Mondelez makes a point of always setting aside a sizeable part of its budget—around 10 per cent for Oreos—for “content exploration”, or experimentation, given the importance of earned media over TV, the results of which she said are difficult to assess. She still sees value in focus groups but admits they have shortcomings and are not useful in all situations. They played a role in the launch of Oreo Thins, for instance, to ensure people understood it was actually a new product.

“If people thought we just downsized it versus introducing a new product with new properties, that would be a problem,” she said. “So they do have a role, but I think it’s a pretty coarse tool.”

In conclusion, she said she felt agency-client relationships and ultimately work would become stronger in Asia if people spent less time on niceties. “Honesty is the foundation of out relationship [with The Martin Agency],” she said. “Don’t beat around the bush and don’t feel you have to be nice. It doesn’t lead to good work. Don’t be rude, but you don’t do anyone any favours if you don’t tell people how you really feel.”

Please see all of our Spikes Asia 2014 coverage here


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